Arup leads innovative engineering design for the new National Museum of Qatar in Doha

Brad Ryan Former UKIMEA Press Officer,London
28 March 2019

The National Museum of Qatar has today opened its doors to the public, celebrating the culture, heritage and future of the Persian Gulf state and its people. For Arup, the opening is the culmination of an 11-year collaborative relationship with architect Jean Nouvel in turning this remarkable, world-class design into reality.

Arup provided a range of services for this highly complex project, including structural, geotechnical, mechanical, electrical and public health engineering design, vertical transportation, fire strategy, civil engineering, facilities access and management, IT and communications design, security consulting, LEED strategy and accreditation processes.

Constructed on either side of the newly restored historic Royal Palace, the design is a significant departure from ordinary engineering practice and combines ambitious modern architecture with complex analysis.

The design is inspired by the desert rose sand formations, the complicated form comprises over 500 intersecting horizontal and vertical discs, stitched together to create a complete structure. The steel discs are all formed from the same ‘family’ of shapes and create the structural roof, walls and floors of the building.

Qatar National Museum. Image: Iwan Baan Qatar National Museum. Image: Iwan Baan
Qatar National Museum © Iwan Baan

The negative spaces between the intersecting discs create the galleries and museum spaces. Because the steel discs are the structure of the building, as the architectural design evolved the structural modelling had to keep pace, resulting in an iterative process. 

Not only visually striking, the discs also provide shading for the canopies, courtyards and walkways for visitors and staff as well as shading the windows, protecting the gallery interiors from light and heat. The discs house the energy efficient building services systems essential to achieve international environmental standards.  

This beautiful architectural concept posed significant challenges for the Jean Nouvel and Arup design team because of the scale of the building and because each interaction between the discs is unique. Our response was to develop an iterative and collaborative process for evolving and analysing the geometry to allow the discs to form the structure of the building whilst still creating a functional world-class museum. We are extremely proud to have been involved in this landmark project. ” David Gilpin, Building Engineering London David Gilpin Director, Building Engineering London